Tuesday 18 May 2010

Walsh's Tan Zero

On April Fool's Day 1943 Lt Ken Walsh of VMF-124 was flying a Corsair on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the Russell Islands and was soon in combat with Zeros.

"Suddenly a Zero came out of a dive, crossed his bow within range in a right turn. Even as he pulled hard to get a 90-degree deflection shot, Ken Walsh was marvelling at the sheer beauty of the airplane before him. The Zero, with its clean lines, appeared newly painted, a blend of tan and gold . . . handsome!"*

A blend of tan and gold? Intriguing. But this was not just the fleeting and false impression of an aircraft seen briefly in turning combat. Pre-eminent Japanese aviation researcher James F Lansdale has been kind enough to provide some further details about Walsh's encounter with this and other tan coloured Zeros.

In the 1990's Ken Walsh described to artist Roy Grinnell and Jim Lansdale that the color of a "Hamp" he encountered on 13 May 1943 was a "tan color."  He produced a piece of a Reisen 21 manufactured by Nakajima which he had cut from a Zero wreck on Munda airfield in August 1943 and told them that the colour of the relic was the same as the Zero he had seen.  This piece of metal has subsequently been analysed at least three or four times. 

Roy Grinnell, who commemorated the Walsh encounter of 13 May 1943 by painting Walsh in battle with a "tan" Hamp ("Zero Fighter Sweep" - the heading image),  compared the actual Walsh artifact to his FS 595B Color Standard deck in bright sunlight.  Roy described the Walsh relic as a visual match to "FS-24201/16350."  Bob Mikesh described the same piece as "slightly muddier than [Munsell] 5 Y 5/4" which Bob said was also "too yellow."  "[Munsell] 5/Y 5/2 equales the lightness."

Another report, prepared it is believed by NASM CAL, assessed the artifact's colour as Munsell 5 Y 5.0/2.5.

These colours are shown above, together with the measured value of the Iida Zero artifact from Pearl Harbor and the Tamiya paint XF-76 for comparison. The relationship of all these olive and yellow grey colours should be apparent. Shown also below for comparison and contrast are the colour values for the Gaia paint 211 'Kai Ryoku Syoku', reportedly based on the Kariki 117 'M0' colour 'HaiRyokushoku' (Ash Green Colour), which matches Munsell 7.5 GY 5/2, together with the colour value of the Sweet hobby paint intended for their 1/144th series of Zero kits, 'Grey Green Colour', which is matched to Pantone 5783U. It should be apparent, even to the most partisan observer and notwithstanding issues of saturation, scale and/or metamerism, that these are simply different hues.

Lt Col Lloyd Childers USMC (Ret.) recalls that "At Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, and again at the Battle of Midway on 4th June 1942, I particularly noticed the color of the IJN Zeros as a light tan (his emphasis), very shiny or slick."

During the same battle another pilot encountered three Zeros, one of which he described as "ash grey" and another as "a brownish color". After action reports from other US combat crews at Midway describe Zeros as "ash grey", "light tan" and "khaki color".

The combat reports from the war diary of VMF-214 (the Black Sheep) during 1943 are remarkable for containing hardly any descriptions of dark green or grey Zeros. Those enemy aircraft described as "black" may have been painted in the dark, almost black green colours of D0 and D1 but the majority of reports describe brown or brownish aircraft. Zero aircraft encountered on 16th September 1943 were variously described as "dirty brown", "dark brownish green", "brown rust colour" and "brown", together with "plain brown, lighter than others, looked very new". Even on 3rd January 1944 two "Zekes" - Zeros claimed in combat were described as "light brown". What to make of this? When was the last time that Zero models painted in shades of brown rather than dark green or grey appeared on the display tables? 

The significance of these eyewitness reports is that the subsequent study of extant artifacts has reinforced rather than repudiated them. The inherent yellowishness or mustard appearance of the paint has to be seen to be appreciated. Perhaps it was just such a description, couched in terms of "mustard", by an unknown aviator to an unknown questioner, that led to the notorious yellow Zero mythology of the immediate post war years - and the early years of Aurora kits? Whatever you make of this, the next time someone is telling you about grey green Zeros, pistachio and vanilla, spare a thought for Walsh's tan Zeros.

With grateful thanks to James F Lansdale of j-aircraft.com for the provision of additional information and details and to Irene Grinnell for kind permission to include the image of "Zero Fighter Sweep" by Roy Grinnell.

* As reported in 'Whistling Death - The Test Pilot's Story of the F4U Corsair' by Boone T Guyton (Orion Books, New Yourk, 1990)

Image credits: "Zero Fighter Sweep" courtesy of and ©2010 Roy Grinnell ; Rendered colour chips ©2010 'Straggler'; Aurora Zero box art courtesy Gary Wenko

Monday 17 May 2010

Update ~ Hawk Zero

Added images of the Testors 1978 box art for re-issued Hawk Zero.

Fine Molds Navy Carrier Dive Bomber "Suisei"

Something of a "French Connection" going on with Aviation of Japan at the moment. Master modeller Jean Barby has kindly shared photographs of his superb Fine Molds "Judy" build in 1/48th scale.

Jean comments that the build was straightforward despite what he had read about this kit here and there. He made good use of the specific photo etch set available from Fine Molds to improve the level of detail but also added rivets to the airframe using the plan in Bunrin Do's Famous Aircraft of the World # 69 on this type, and it really makes a difference to the overall appearance of the model. Jean applied paint from the GSI Creos (Gunze) Mr Color range, choosing Mitsubishi IJN green and grey, and used British dark green for the cockpit which was a near perfect match to a sample of interior colour from the real aircraft. Finally a Squadron vacform canopy was used to replicate the moveable parts of the long greenhouse, to achieve a presentation typical of the way the aircraft looked on the ground.

Thank you Jean!

Image credits: All photographs courtesy of and ©2010 Jean Barby

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Shiden-kai, Shiden & Kyofu Colours ~ Part Two - Interiors 1

Regarding the interior colour of the N1K1 "Rex" floatplane fighter Rober C Mikesh writes in 'Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945' (Monogram Aviation Publications, 2000):-

"It was not practical to make a definitive description of the interior green that was found on the two Rex aircraft that were inspected. The aircraft at the Admiral Nimitz Museum has been repainted from the original, and the paint on the aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) is so deteriorated that an accurate assessment is not possible under the existing conditions. It is safe to say, however, that the colour appearance appears to approximate the generally used Munsell 2.5 GY 4/2 found in Navy cockpits. This approximates the Pantone 5743U and is shown on page 15 as Color N.33. The instrument panel of the Admiral Nimitz Museum example, and the one separated panel at the NASM, are both semi-gloss black."

Is it safe to assume that this colour continued to be used in the cockpits of the N1K1-J Shiden?

In respect of the N1K2-J  the interior colour match cited by Peter Fearis in his excellent monograph on the type self-published under the 'Kaburaya' title in 2000 (Kaburaya Books Modellers Guide Number One: Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai "George") is FS 34258. The evidence for Peter's conclusion about the colour is not revealed in the book but he had extensively examined and photographed the extant US Air Force Museum example, airframe # 5312. 

However, Robert C Mikesh, in examining # 5312 concluded that:-

 "no repainting of the interior had previously been made, therefore original. although aged, colors could be examined in the very few areas where deterioration was not too great". 

And that this color:-

 "closely resembled A/N 34, as had the NASM aircraft". 

Mikesh also matched FS 34127 and A/N 34 (from the color identification system used in his book) to "the better preserved color of the interior structure, behind components that were removed" inside the cockpit of the extant NASM example airframe # 5341. 

Mikesh matched the colour of those components (as distinct from the structure) that could be studied as ranging in colour appearance from Pantone 5747U (FS34097) "slightly greener than the color of the structure" to N1. "Most ranged between N1, which was too dark, to N2, which was too yellow". All were described as shades of green but the "mix of very similar colors in a cockpit is barely noticeable, resulting in a strong resemblance to the NASM aircraft"

Elsewhere Mikesh identifies A/N 34 as Munsell 10 Y 4/4 which is exactly the same value assigned to N5 Light Olive Green by Donald W Thorpe. The closest FS value to this colour is 34151 @ 2.15 rather than 34127. It is puzzling therefore why Mr Mikesh felt it necessary to create a new designation for N5 as A/N 34 and why FS 34127 is given in comparison to it rather than 34151. The difference between the observations recorded by Fearis and Mikesh may be nothing more than the subjective perception and interpretation of the colours and fan decks in different illuminant conditions or reflect the matching to specific points on variegated surfaces.

The reference to different colour standards in 'Japanese Aircraft Interiors' - by verbal description (sometimes inconsistent), Pantone, FS and the Thorpe A/N system extended in the book (with printed colour chips) introduces unnecessary complexity to an already complex subject. In the book the printed colour chip for A/N34 is actually closer in appearance to 34258 than 34127. I can only show these various colours in juxtaposition here to let readers make their own minds up.

In his earlier 'Japanese Cockpit Interiors' (Monogram Close-Up 14 & 15, 1976) Mikesh identified the same three basic Navy cockpit interior colours as recorded by Thorpe. They are shown here for completeness. It is possible that N5 and N6 represent variants or faded examples of the same basic colour. Note that none of these colours is the same as that later identified Mikesh as another colour said to be "generally used" in Navy cockpits Munsell 2.5 GY 4/2 and N.33 (and also compared to Pantone 5743U) and in the case of "Rex" specifically cited.

I am unable to resolve these difficulties but can only report them and display the colours referred to. Further confusion arises from some earlier photography (and memories!) showing what appears to be a completely different colour inside the cockpit of # 5341 but an explanation is provided by Mr Mikesh:-

"Kawanishi Shiden-kai 5341: This airplane belongs to the National Air and Space Museum and was restored in 1994 by the Champlin Fighter Museum. Unfortunately, this airplane had been over-sprayed with green zinc chromate during one of its many cosmetic repaintings. This made it difficult to detect minor variations in the paint colors that may originally have been used. The better preserved color of the interior structure, behind components that were removed, approximated Federal Standard 34127 and A/N 34. Components that would have been sub-units and installed after this initial painting showed slight variations to the basic color. Where possible, these components were merely cleaned and waxed in order to preserve this original paint. These differences in colors are scarcely apparent in the general appearance of the cockpit."

Color photographs in 'Japanese Aircraft Interiors' show the Shiden-kai cockpit fully restored and fully re-painted in colors matched to the originals identified by Mr Mikesh.

Mr Mikesh also examined this aircraft whilst conducting colorimeter measurements on other Japanese aircraft in the NASM collection, reporting the results in Asahi Journal Vol.3 No.1 and also suggesting a general cockpit interior color again matched to FS 34127 :-

"The Kawanishi Aircraft Company delivered this George 21 to the IJN in the closing months of the war. This was a late production Shiden Kai with serial number 5341. When received by NASM it had been outdoors at Willow Grove NAS for many years, in poor condition, and void of its original exterior paint. Under NASM direction, the Champlin Fighter Museum undertook its total restoration which was completed in November 1994. Traces of green paint that were found verified that its original color was N1. The interior had sufficient traces of original paint that a match could be made. Many cockpit components of similar greens have been retained with their original paint with a protective wax coating. All finishes used were semigloss."

It seems reasonable to conclude from this that the Shiden-kai cockpit interior, even late in the war, was painted rather than unpainted.

Image credits: Rendered colour chips © 2010 Straggler

Gremlin Alert - Amendment

Corrected a typo in Useful Army Interiors ~ Part One. The rendered FS595B chip should read as 35052 rather than 34052. Thanks to Fernando for alerting me to this.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Some Japanese Civil Aviation Types

Reader Jacob Terlouw has very kindly contributed these fascinating photographs of Japanese civil aviation types, a subject I should like to feature more often here. The heading picture shows the Beechcraft J-BAOI of Nihon Koku Yuso Kabushiki Kaisha (NKYKK - Japan Air Transport Company) that featured on one of the recently reviewed Rising Decals sheets. However, the blue depicted in the colorised image is very dark, almost like the blue-black Navy cowling colour and brings to mind the widely differing depictions of the blue colour trim on the Mitsubishi Karigane communications aeroplane 'Kamikaze', some of which show a bright, almost cobalt, blue and others a dark navy blue - almost blue black (including one contemporary model). I hope to feature more on 'Kamikaze' and her blue colour in due course.

This Nakajima AT-2 (Ki-34) 'J-BAOY' was an aircraft of NKYKK named 'Haruma' and registered in May, 1937, although this registration was subsequently also worn by a Mitsubishi G3M1 of Dai Nippon Koku KK registered in 1939.

J-BCOV was a Lockeed 14-WG3B Super Electra also registered to NKYKK in 1938 and named 'Chikuma'.

And finally an Airspeed Envoy, registration unknown. The Japan Air Transport Company was incorporated in October 1928 under both civil and military jurisdiction and during the war continued to service air routes across Japan's 'Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere'. 

Image credits: JAT postcards all courtesy of J Terlouw

Monday 3 May 2010